What if the defensive ends on the Dallas Cowboys are actually…wait for it…good? Sure, this team’s pass rush as a whole isn’t dominant, with defensive end being a position Cowboys Nation expects to see addressed in the offseason, but things could have been a lot worse this season when it comes to Rod Marinelli’s defense getting after the quarterback.
For now, the pass rushers on this team are going to be called upon to continue to get the job done in the playoffs, and its time to study this position further with some Dallas Cowboys Playoff Primer.
Benson Mayowa may very well have to be the Cowboys’ best defensive end this postseason. Relatively well rested, Mayowa saw Randy Gregory get some of his snaps over the last two weeks of the regular season, only to be suspended again for the playoffs and 2017.
Rushing solely from the right defensive end position, Mayowa – when he wants to – shows the skill that Dallas saw in him this offseason to sign the young rusher to a three-year deal. If he’s not attacking left tackles right down the middle and getting held in check at the line of scrimmage, Mayowa is bending around the corner with violent hands and pressuring the quarterback.
Undoubtedly the best true RDE this team has for the playoffs, Mayowa is going to need to prove his worth by giving maximum effort over potentially the next three weeks.
David Irving has burst onto the scene with the Cowboys this season, jump starting his career under defensive-line guru Rod Marinelli after signing with Dallas in 2015. With three sacks in his last three games, Irving has found ways to get to the quarterback more consistently both as a defensive end and interior tackle.
Primarily playing as an end during his recent hot streak, David Irving has found a way to set up unsuspecting right tackles with some polished counter moves and surprising bend to go with his freakish length and athleticism.
In the Cowboys’ previous meeting with the Green Bay Packers, Irving was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week by forcing three fumbles and sacking Aaron Rodgers once despite playing just 19 snaps.
Wherever he lines up this week and throughout the playoffs, opposing offenses are going to have to be aware of #95 in white, which is something we didn’t necessarily expect to say about many Dallas defenders this season.
Tyrone Crawford is somewhat of a man without a position on the Cowboys defensive line right now, despite being their highest paid player. Once thought to be in store for a big season at the 3T DT position, Crawford has been forced to play at left defensive end due to injuries and lack of depth.
It hasn’t been all bad for Crawford as an edge rusher though, as he will flash at times as a pass rusher, while always playing as a formidable strong side run defender.
Getting around the edge with Tyrone Crawford playing LDE will be a tall task for the Packers running game, especially with the Cowboys’ cast of linebackers rallying to the ball around him. If Crawford can also find a spark over the next few weeks as a pass rusher, the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line will turn into one of the strongest remaining in the playoffs.
Who would have thought?
Jack Crawford is the “Mr. Do It All” of the Cowboys’ defensive front, back in 2016 on a one-year deal to add depth as a situational rusher at multiple positions.
While Crawford’s impact in the playoffs will realistically be pretty marginal, he is a legitimate and athletic piece to this defense – fitting the mold seen throughout this “orphan” lineup.
Gone are the days of non-scheme fits like Nick Hayden eating up snaps defensively for the Cowboys, because they have a player like Jack Crawford to give them maximum effort as a speed rushing end and penetrating defensive tackle when called upon.
If Dallas isn’t going to blitz Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, opting instead to play coverage, the next best thing they may be able to do is unleash Jack Crawford on some obvious passing downs.
I saved DeMarcus Lawrence for last in this Playoff Primer, and it’s because we need to have a talk about the Cowboys’ young defensive end. Just you and I.
When things looked darkest for this defensive line coming into the season, we all took just a bit of solace in the fact that this “emerging star” in Lawrence was going to be on the field.- at least after his four game suspension, handed down as a result of his back injury and the drugs he used to deal with it.
While I joined in on my fair share of hype with Cowboys Nation for Lawrence’s 2016 campaign, a part of me always thought that his season would turn out just like this.
Lingering back injuries have kept Lawrence out of the last four games, and the six he’s played have resulted in just one sack. DeMarcus Lawrence was asked to be the guy this season for the Cowboys pass rush, but has always profiled more like a second rusher.
The hope is that Dallas, who will gladly welcome a “second rusher” in DeMarcus Lawrence to join the rotation they’ll undoubtedly be relying on over the coming weeks, gets something positive out of Lawrence to refocus with their 2014 draft pick for 2017.
The explosive play has not been there for Lawrence this season like it was in 2015 though, and I highly doubt it will return in time for him to take over games when they matter the most.
To conclude Playoff Primer here at Inside The Star, I’ll be looking at the secondary with the safeties and corner backs prior to Sunday’s Divisional Round game at AT&T Stadium.